Wednesday, October 19, 2011

#OWS all warm and fuzzy

There comes a moment in social movements when it seems like anything is possible.  One wonders if 15 October wasn't that peak moment for #OWS.  The cops have backed down for once, the rest of the world has noticed you and is applauding, and your enemies are scurrying around like a bunch of cockroaches.

Enjoy this moment, folks, because the fun will soon end and the slogging "that tries men's souls," to quote Tom Paine, will begin.  Valley Forge is straight ahead.  Your enemies will reorganize, the rest of the world will grow tired of your cause if tangible progress is not made, and soon you will need to hammer out an agenda—a process that will reveal how truly annoying your new best friends really are.

From Wall Street to South Africa
The Rebellion of the Poor

In The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck’s novel about the Great Depression, Tom Joad, the novel’s central character, a man who has been made poor and who is on the run from the law, tells his mother in the climactic scene that: “I been thinking about us, too, about our people living like pigs and good rich land layin’ fallow. Or maybe one guy with a million acres and a hundred thousand farmers starvin’. And I been wonderin’ if all our folks got together….”

That wondering is a red thread woven through American history with the promise of a way out of what Martin Luther King called “life as a long and desolate corridor with no exit sign”. In recent years a lot of Americans who have not been born to life in that desolate corridor have been forced in to it. The time when each generation could expect to live better than their parents has passed. Poverty is rushing into the suburbs. Young people live with their parents into their thirties. Most can not afford university. Most of the rest leave it with an intolerable debt burden. It’s the same in Spain, Greece and Ireland. England is looking pretty grim too. The borders that surround the enclaves of global privilege are shrinking in from the nation state to surround private wealth.

If the problem was that there just wasn’t enough money to go around, people would have to accept the situation. But when there is plenty of money, when there is, in fact, an incredible abundance of money but its being held by a tiny minority, its perfectly logical to start wondering along Tom Joad’s lines.

The financial elite who had, for so long, successfully presented themselves as the high priests of the arcane arts of economic divination on whom our collective well being was dependent caused the financial crisis of 2008. The problem was not a miscalculation in some algorithm. It was the greed of a caste that had been allowed to set itself up above everyone else. As a character in a Bruce Springsteen song about the deindustrialisation of America observes “Them big boys did what Hitler couldn’t do”. This caste has developed so much power over the media and politicians that it has been allowed to dictate the resolution of the crisis. Their plan, of course, comes down to the proposal that they should continue to profit while the shortfall is recovered from society. That means more people losing their homes, no longer able to afford health care or child care, dropping out of university, sliding deeper into debt and working two or three crappy jobs just to keep going.

There was resistance from the start. But for a long time it looked like right wing populism would be the dominant popular response in America. But with the occupation of Wall Street inciting occupations and planned occupations in cities throughout the United States, and as far away as Hong Kong and South Africa, it seems that a response that targets the real source of the problem is gaining more traction.

The choice of Wall Street as the target for the occupation is, in itself, a perfectly eloquent statement. And slogans like “We’re young; we’re poor; we’re not going to take it any more” are incisive enough. But if the occupation of sites of symbolic power in cities across North America is to win concrete rather than moral victories, and to make a decisive intervention against the hold that finance capital has taken over so much of political and social life, it will have to do two things. It will need, without giving up its autonomy, to build links with organisations, like churches, trade unions and students groups, that are rooted in everyday life and can support this struggle over the long haul. It will also need to find ways to build its own power and to exercise it with sufficient impact to force real change. more
Hard to find a more flattering description of #OWS than this one from The Guardian. 
Occupy movement: from local action to a global howl of protest
A month after its launch, more than 900 cities around the world have hosted protests affiliated to the Occupy cause
Esther Addley  The Guardian, Monday 17 October 2011

In Madrid, tens of thousands thronged the Puerta del Sol square shouting "Hands up! This is a robbery!" In Santiago, 25,000 Chileans processed through the city, pausing outside the presidential palace to hurl insults at the country's billionaire president. In Frankfurt, more than 5,000 people massed outside the European Central Bank, in scenes echoed in 50 towns and cities across Germany, from Berlin to Stuttgart. Sixty thousand people gathered in Barcelona, 100 in Manila, 3,000 in Auckland, 200 in Kuala Lumpur, 1,000 in Tel Aviv, 4,000 in London. 
A month to the day after 1,000 people first turned up in Wall Street to express their outrage at corporate greed and social inequality, campaigners are reflecting on a weekend that saw a relatively modest demonstration in New York swell into a truly global howl of protest
The Occupy campaign may have hoped, at its launch, to inspire similar action elsewhere, but few can have foreseen that within four weeks, more than 900 cities around the world would host co-ordinated protests directly or loosely affiliated to the Occupy cause. 
The exact targets of protesters' anger may differ from city to city and country to country. But while their numbers remain small in many places, activists argue that Saturday's demonstrations, many of which are still ongoing – and are pledged to remain so for the foreseeable future – are evidence of a growing wave of global anger at social and economic injustice. 
"This is not a battle by youth or Chilean society," said Camila Vallejo, a Chilean student leader who has become a key figure in that country's protests, and who this week travelled to Europe to forge alliances with protest movements there. "This is a world battle that transcends all frontiers." 
The UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said the global financial crisis was the trigger, adding: "What you are seeing all around the world, starting from Wall Street, people are showing their frustrations."
After a month of no more than expressions of lukewarm empathy for the movement's anti-Wall Street feeling, Barack Obama's spokesman adopted the protesters' own terminology in calling themselves "the 99%". "The president will continue to acknowledge the frustration that he himself shares about the need for Washington to do more to support our economic recovery and to ensure that the interest of the 99% of Americans is well-represented," said Josh Earnest. more
After Obama has relentlessly sold out his base, this polling result is hardly a shock.
Occupy Wall Street more popular than Obama

RT   Published: 14 October, 2011, 19:49

While politicians and the mainstream media waited weeks to acknowledge Occupy Wall Street, it looks as though the public hasn’t ignored the movement. A new poll shows that more Americans favor the protests than they do President Obama. 
A new poll released on Thursday from Time assessed Americans’ opinions of all things current events, only to reveal that the general public’s favor of the continuing Occupy Wall Street movements exceed that of their own commander-in-chief. Approaching its fifth week now, the ongoing protests that originated out of New York’s Zuccotti Park that have since spread internationally have managed to garner more support than Barack Obama himself, with 54 percent of those polled favoring the demonstrations to the president’s measly 44 percent. 
And although conservative critics have largely shunned the Occupy Wall Street protests as being an disorganized and chaotic attempt to recapitalize on the Tea Party’s success from yesteryear, the same poll from Time shows that the approval rating of the populist-geared GOP gang is only half that of Occupy Wall Street. 
Speaking to RT yesterday, The Market Ticker’s Karl Denninger, one of the co-founders of the Tea Party movement, said that the protesters with Occupy Wall Street can learn from the mistakes that Palin and pals encountered when they waged demonstrations of their own. 
“One of the things that the Occupy movement seems to have going for it is it has not turned around and issued a set of formal demands,” Denninger said. “This is a good thing, not a bad thing. Everyone is looking for a set of demands.”

Denninger added that in the case of the Tea Party, organization was largely to blame for the movement’s downfall.“One of the things we wanted was the end to bailouts and an end to government deficit spending, and as you can see that didn’t happen,” said Denninger. more
The following is especially sweet.  Hedges is so proud of the young people who have accomplished so much that in the end he is moved to tears.

Chris Hedges: "This one could take them all down." Hedges on OWS w/OccupyTVNY—10/15/11

And back to reality.  The ONLY reason #OWS is gaining traction is that they are up against folks who are scrambling to merely survive.  #OWS doesn't have to overthrow anyone—they will win IF they can "merely" prevent their governments from bailing out the banksters again.
Behind Europe’s Debt Crisis Lurks Another Giant Bailout Of Wall Street Banks

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich 
Today Ben Bernanke added his voice to those who are worried about Europe’s debt crisis. 
But why exactly should America be so concerned? Yes, we export to Europe – but those exports aren’t going to dry up. And in any event, they’re tiny compared to the size of the U.S. economy. 
If you want the real reason, follow the money. A Greek (or Irish or Spanish or Italian or Portugese) default would have roughly the same effect on our financial system as the implosion of Lehman Brothers in 2008. 
Investors are already getting the scent. Stocks slumped to 13-month low on Monday as investors dumped Wall Street bank shares. 
The Street has lent only about $7 billion to Greece, as of the end of last year, according to the Bank for International Settlements. That’s no big deal. 
But a default by Greece or any other of Europe’s debt-burdened nations could easily pummel German and French banks, which have lent Greece (and the other wobbly European countries) far more. 
That’s where Wall Street comes in. Big Wall Street banks have lent German and French banks a bundle. 
The Street’s total exposure to the euro zone totals about $2.7 trillion. Its exposure to to France and Germany accounts for nearly half the total. 
And it’s not just Wall Street’s loans to German and French banks that are worrisome. Wall Street has also insured or bet on all sorts of derivatives emanating from Europe – on energy, currency, interest rates, and foreign exchange swaps. If a German or French bank goes down, the ripple effects are incalculable. 
Get it? Follow the money: If Greece goes down, investors start fleeing Ireland, Spain, Italy, and Portugal as well. All of this sends big French and German banks reeling. If one of these banks collapses, or show signs of major strain, Wall Street is in big trouble. Possibly even bigger trouble than it was in after Lehman Brothers went down. 
That’s why shares of the biggest U.S. banks have been falling for the past month. Morgan Stanley closed Monday at its lowest since December 2008 – and the cost of insuring Morgan’s debt has jumped to levels not seen since November 2008. more

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